Saturday, September 8, 2007

Canberra to Echuca

Day 4: A good breakfast at the Novotel then a quick trip down to the Internet shop next door before boarding the bus to leave Canberra. We do about 100 km to Gundagai where Paul Mann boards the bus to take us to Sticky Knob, his extracting facility on the top of a knob outside of the city. He runs 1,500 hives for honey and pollination using standard equipment, trucks and forklifts and bobcats, moving bees in about a 300 mile radius. He makes the observation that queens last twice as long (over 3 years in some cases) in the mountains than in the coast (yearly requeening necessary), a consequence of nutrition available and humidity levels. He has gone to a galvanized steel pallet, with integrated bottom board, which he says has been quite successful in keeping colonies drier leading to more productivity. The old wooden ones soaked up the moisture. The New Zealander on the trip Franz Laas says that his open bottom boards have also contributed to better health of his bees, even though he not been challenged by Varroa as yet on the South Island. We also visit Mr. Mann’s brother’s place and manipulate a few hives. EFB mentioned as a manageable problem here as is small hive beetle at the moment. 75% of the honey comes from the introduced week, Patterson’s Curse, an introduced weed difficult to control. The nectar sometimes has such a low moisture content that it will not pour out of a jar.

Several things are discussed. The large number of kanagroos, shooting 40-50 a night makes no dent in the population, which controls its population by managing abortion rates and moving the young quickly into and out of the pouch to make room for others or even stopping development entirely The road kill here is intense and the beekeepers’ trucks are fitted with large bumpers to keep from being damaged and this even extends to armor protection over the windshields. Discussion of gun control; it is almost impossible to get a permit to buy a gun; although he had a gun for years, one year the permit license was not renewed and it was lost forever. Bees on public lands in the reserves are no longer permitted. Farmers in general have been driven out of the parks. The did care for the land, but now there is none and it is being overrun with the bad kind of dingo dog, kangaroos and too much timber is allowed to pile up as a fire hazard. See conclusions of the land management folks, In addition, the H&S (health and safety) laws are putting the squeeze on farmers. They have many of the same complaints as folks in the U.S. have about OSHA

We board the bus to visit the tourist attraction, known as Dog on the Tucker Box. A small statue of a dog on top of a food box is a homily to the pioneers who carried their food with them in boxes.

We have another long way to go into the town of Wagga Wagga (words are repeated to show number—the more repeated words, the more connoted in aboriginal language),_New_South_Wales

. We begin to move out of the western foot hills of the Great Dividing Range into the Riverine area associated with the Murrumbidgee River.

We see mixed vegetation turn to a flat river plane. Associated with this is the shift in bird life, from sulfur crested cockatoos to the reddish galah (crimson). As the land becomes more irrigated and we see large fields of canola then rice, laughing kookaburras become more prevalent, as they are in the kingfisher group and so attracted to natural and human waterways. We also see crested pigeon and doves on the ground along with flocks of cockatoos and the odd emu (wild population here). There is also many sheep in both habitats, making the pastures look like they have been mowed. Historically, this is the heart of the wool industry.

We motor through the Riverine passing by small hamlets, moving toward our destination, Echuca on the Murray River. The River was the lifeblood of the region and Mark Twain called it the Australian Mississippi when he visited. With rail and truck traffic and the upper reaches transformed by irrigation, it is now a favorite tourist destination Thus, our trip features a trip on the Pride of Murray

complete with dinner. I manage to get up into the wheelhouse, about as close as a modern guy can get to the halcyon days when the paddleboats ruled this region. You can also join the Murray River Club and purchase your own boat if you wish

Discussions on the coach about other topics associated with the Murray River:

Murray Cod, a native top predator is endangered due to habitat destruction. This fish can be long lived and very big, well over 80 lbs. Australian bit of lore, the Murray Cod is so big it can only turn around at the confluence of rivers where the width is appropriate. Then there’s the European Carp, which one web site calls a misnomer, This is European in the sense that it’s an Asian fish introduced to Europe and then via humans, Australia. Dubbed the “rabbit of the river”, it is associated with degradation of the riverine environment, causing vegetational decal and oxygen deprivation. Trees fall into river closing them down. What was once a clear flowing river has become impassible. As one web site declares: But are carp the villians or just one of the many syptoms being displayed by our stressed rivers. Are carp a scapegoat for 200 years of inappropriate river management, or are they one of the prime causes of degradation in our rivers?”

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